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Sponsors Use Olympics To Improve Corporate Image


Much of the over $4 billion in revenue taken in by the International Olympic Committee over the last four years has come from corporate sponsorship.

VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Turin on what companies pay to become an Olympic sponsor and what they hope to get in return.

The Olympic Sponsor Village in Turin, Italy is a mini-amusement park where visitors to the Fiat car company can play fuzz-ball. And at the Coca Cola exhibit people can try to score a goal. Corporate sponsorship of the Olympics is now an accepted part of the games.

Andrew Kollo, from Canada, has been to eight Olympics and says commercialism is necessary. “It does make it too commercial but at the same time without them we would not have the events that we have. We wouldn't have the world class events that we have and that lets the athletes compete at the highest caliber they can.”

One of the major sponsors of the Olympics is GE, General Electric, which is paying between $40 million and $60 million to be associated with the Winter Games in Turin. GE also owns NBC, the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of the Olympics. It recoups some of its sponsorship costs by providing over 620 electrical generators and lighting for all the Olympic venues. At the Sponsor Village GE visitors can take a virtual ride through the human heart.

GE's director of global marketing, Mathais Henssen, says this ride, and much of its marketing, uses the public interest in the Olympics to sell GE as a leader in sports-related health care technology. “The Olympics is the biggest event - sports event in the world. We are a very large infrastructure company so we believe that our products and services can be valuable for the games.”

At the Samsung exhibit, Italian ski legend Alberto Tomba signs autographs. While there visitors can try out the South Korean company's newest mobile phones and cameras.

Samsung's Louis Kim says the company is hoping to increase public trust in its products through its affiliation with the established and respected Olympics movement. “Obviously we might not be able to get the return overnight, but we believe this has to be Samsung's long-term commitment to the worldwide consumer which we serve, and over time we would like to build the consumer's affinity.”

While the costs of sponsoring the Olympics may seem excessive, these companies are competing in a global market. And as advertisers will tell you, you have to spend money to make money.